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    My Morning Cup

    How does Xinning Li take his coffee?

    My Morning Cup features the coffee rituals that most of us have. People from all walks of life — from US senators to ballplayers, subway drivers to college professors — have submitted entries that will run most days.

    Here, we reached Xinning Li, orthopedic sports medicine and shoulder surgeon at Boston Medical Center, by e-mail.

    Dr. Xinning Li, 36

    Canton, Mich.

    Orthopedic sports medicine and shoulder surgeon at Boston Medical Center


    Boston University Athletics team physician

    Describe your coffee routine. Where do you frequent, what do you like?

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    I typically get up between 5:15 a.m. and 5:45 a.m. every morning, depending on the day of the week.  I drag myself to the coffee maker (Cuisinart – 12 cup), set in a new filter, tap water, fill the mug to 8 cups, and then grind up fresh whole bean coffee.  I enjoy whole bean coffee because the aroma is much better when it is ground up in the morning, also the darker the better.  I grind the whole beans using 2 cycles of 5 seconds each to optimize the texture and size of the granules for the coffee maker. 

    Make or buy?  

    I make coffee in the morning for the road and I buy in the early afternoon for a second wave of energy.

    If make, what coffee do you use and how do you make it?

    My favorite coffee is the whole bean Aged Sumatra from Peet’s coffee.  It has a rich, heavy, and dark flavor.  The coffee comes from the Indo Pacific island of Sumatra. For every 4 cups of water, I use 2 tablespoons of freshly ground Aged Sumatra coffee.  I also like the Allegro Extra Dark French roast coffee, which you can buy from Whole Foods.  I add extra cream; my go-to creamer is the Bailey’s “The Original Irish Cream” non-alcoholic version.  Also, if I can find ground cinnamon, then I will add a touch into my cup of coffee. 


    If buy, where? What time? Do baristas know you? 

    Dunkin’ Donuts inside Boston Medical Center.  If I can make it before 11 a.m., then I can get into the express line. In the early afternoon, I will typically buy coffee for the team when I am in clinic at the Ryan Center at the Boston University campus, and I will ask either a physician assistant or resident to pick up the coffee for everyone.

    What’s your order?

    At Dunkin’ Donuts: French vanilla, hot, extra cream, and 2 sugars.

    At Starbucks: The dark coffee of the day, hot, then I add extra cream and 2 sugars.

    How do you take it?

    Extra cream with a touch of sugar, the creamier the better, but I like the sweetness to be balanced. Also, I will add ground cinnamon if available.  Sometimes, I will mix up it up and replace the sugar with honey in the coffee to sweeten.

    Iced or hot?


    Hot – always.

    Alone or with company?

    Alone in the morning and company in the afternoon.  On weekends, I always have coffee in the morning with my wife.  We like to try out different types of coffee at breakfast places around the Boston area.

    Where do you drink it? Seated or on the go? 

    Typically, on the go.  The only time that I can enjoy my coffee seated is either in the morning conference or on the weekends.  On the weekends, I enjoy my cup of coffee in a “Tiger” cup that my wife purchased for me from the San Diego Zoo or my University of Virginia cup.

    Any simultaneous noncaffeinated stimulation (newspaper, radio, cigarettes, etc.)


    How many more cups the rest of the day? 

    At least one in the morning and one in the afternoon. May drink a Red Bull on the way back from work to stay awake, since the trip home can be long due to Boston traffic.  

    What time will you drink your last cup?

     Early afternoon.  If I am on-call and I get stuck in the operating room late, I will grab another coffee from Cumberland Farms on the corner of Mass. Ave. and Albany Street before I drive back home … sometimes at 2 or 3 a.m.

    What’s your stance on decaf?

    Hate it. 

     When and why did you start drinking coffee?

    I never drank coffee until I started medical school.  Then the amount of coffee just increased proportionately to the time I spent in the hospital and the frequency of overnight calls.  I did my junior residency during the time when there was not an 80-hour workweek limitation.  A typical week in orthopedic residency was between 80 and 100 plus hours with 30 hours spent on call every fourth night.  Life as a junior resident can be consuming, and I found coffee to help me get through the day.

    Describe the most memorable cup of coffee you’ve ever had.

    Seattle, Wash., at the original Starbucks cafe in the Pike’s Marketplace. There was nothing special about the taste of this cup of coffee, but the setting and the fact that I was having a cup of coffee at the first ever Starbucks made it very memorable. I ordered a Pike Place Blend, Medium sized cup, hot, extra cream, and two sugars.

    This Q&A has been edited. To submit your own My Morning Cup entry, e-mail Matt Viser at